There is at least one thing fans and players agree on. Ajax players come from all over the world. On the pitch, football quality is the main criterion. In 2022/2023, a player must be of UEFA Champions League level to secure a place in the top squad.
Ajax players from 50 countries
In the 122-year history of the club, the lion's share of the players who have played in the Ajax first team have logically been Dutch nationals. The 'foreign Ajax players' come from exactly 50 different countries. Lucca's debut was historic in that respect. Italy has become the fiftieth country of birth of an Ajax first team player since Sunday.
In the list of foreign Ajax players, the Danes are the most prominent. Since Tom Søndergaard's entrance in 1969, no fewer than 28 Danes have worn the Ajax shirt. The recently hired Mohamed Daramy is the most recent Ajax Dane for now.
Denmark and the Netherlands differ little in terms of (football) culture. But Ajax also welcomed players from more tropical regions. What about the Ethiopian born Youssouf Hersi, the Colombian Davinson Sánchez or the Costa Rican Froylan Ledezma? From Australia (Mike Petersen) to Sweden (Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of eight Ajax-Swedes), a wide range of nationalities has shaped the club's history.
Kaplan and Yücedag
Back to Kaplan, our newest Ajax player. Turkish Ajax players are a rarity. Therefore the defender was only aware of a fellow countryman in Yücedag, who preceded him - many years ago - in Amsterdam. These were completely different footballing times. Former youth player Yücedag made his official debut in the cup match against Heerjansdam on 11th December 1984. Aad de Mos was the head coach who allowed him to make his debut. In the end, the Turkish midfielder played two more matches in 1985/1986 with Johan Cruijff as the manager.
Yücedag did not reach full maturity as an Ajax player. Especially in the 1985/1986 season, there was no lack of talent in the Ajax squad. He had happier times at clubs like De Graafschap, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. The number of international matches for the Turkish national team (eight) also exceeded his crop of appearances in the Ajax first team. The sad news of the former player's death reached Ajax in mid-February 2020. The only Turkish player in the Ajax first team until then was only 53 years old.